The Sartorial Army

MYAR founder Andrea Rosso and Port’s David Hellqvist take a closer look at menswear’s fascination with army uniforms and military details, and how the Italian brand is giving vintage pieces a new lease of life

Fashion is all about newness: twice a year we’re supposed to perform a human moulting of sorts by bringing in an entirely new wardrobe. No one does that of course – maybe just the odd new piece, or two – but the concept reflects fashion’s insatiable thirst for novelty. Despite this relentless looking forward, however, a lot of the inspiration for those ‘new’ looks come from the past. Add to that menswear’s constant obsession with army uniforms and military details, and there’s no question about where I’m heading with this.

Andrea Rosso, the founder of MYAR, shares that point of view. Having started 55DSL with his father, Diesel CEO Renzo Rosso, the Italian designer has no shortage of contemporary fashion experience. And MYAR combines Rosso’s Diesel CV with his passionate love for military garments and camouflage. Rosso dedicates his time searching for surplus pieces that can be ‘saved’ and given a new lease of life, as part of his MYAR wardrobe. Re-cut and re-appropriated to suit modern civilian life in terms of fit and silhouette, these garments get to keep their stories and histories while being part of a new narrative.

Not only does it make sense from a sustainability point of view, but it’s a great way of combing the past with the current to create a version of the future. On the back of MYAR’s AW18 presentation in Paris last week, Port quizzed Rosso on his brand, where he finds the stock, and if the connection to danger makes the brand even more interesting.

How would you explain the brand to an outsider?

MYAR, an anagram of ARMY and also my initials, is a brand that brings original military garments back to life. It is more than just a brand, it is an operation; we dig through piles of forgotten dead stock in warehouses around the world and hand pick the pieces we believe are the most special. We take these pieces and give them a modern life.

What is it about army uniforms you like, what attracts you to them?

Within the military dress code every uniform garment is developed through function, not only details but also overall appearance. Uniforms have such a strong visual presence and impression; I like how they make you feel powerful as an individual but also have the sense of belonging in a group. Function and purpose are the best!

What are the advantages of re-tailoring existing uniforms instead of making new designs?

All of these existing items have their own stories and individual mutations, they have past lives worn into them that give them character. Broken and faded areas, cuts and past repairs, dirt and discolouration, new items don’t hold the same character.

What do you look for when going through rails… colour, shape, camo?

I start with an idea in mind, and I’m always looking for colours or patterns that attract me the most. Shape and material are important, then I love going more in depth and looking at construction of details like pockets, collar line, stitching, special trims, and insignia. I already imagine wearing it and so the items pick me. There is always so much I look at, there’s so much chaos in warehouses!

Where do you find them?

Many different military markets and fairs around the world: Italy, south England and, of course, Los Angeles. Also in surprising places like a friend’s garage. 

Is the chase and research as much fun as actually re-making them?

The chase to find something special is so much fun, but the continuous research throughout the entire process is the best. With existing products you have to find the right base. These garments hold so much character, we are considerate and always researching how to remake them in a way that respects their history. For MYAR, remaking does not mean reproducing but instead giving a second life to these original pieces by refitting and readjusting to make them more modern. Seeing the transformation is so beautiful.

What is the process when re-designing them?

We always try everything on, seeing the item being worn is so important, as misshapen or dirty as they come! From here we can really see what to consider. The main thing is the sizes and silhouettes from the past need to be adjusted to a more ‘present’ fit. There can be many ways to reinterpret the original sartorial construction. Sometimes we just adjust, and other times we completely unstitch and resew a piece! We look at adding graphics or ink stamped artworks, applying new but always original trims, considering the best wash or treatment; all garments are uniquely considered.

What country makes your favourite fatigues?

There’s many to chose from: I like British army long trench coats and pink camo gas capes, Italian marine workwear jackets and bike overpants from the 70s. Swiss army salt and pepper work jackets, German cotton underwear, US N3-B jackets in cotton, N1 deck jacket with reflective tape applied and internal parka lining. OK… it’s better if I stop here!

How does Italy fare compared to other nations?

The Italian army has probably lost all wars, but we looked great at least! 

Does the uniform’s connection to danger and death make it more fascinating in a way?

This is a very delicate question, but of course it makes it more interesting. The connotation of war and death is always negative, but as in all things there is always a positive aspect even in a negative scenario. With MYAR we give a second life, a second chance with a positive approach and use.

MYAR

Photography Ramon Zugliani

Amsterdamøya: Where the Streets Have No Name

Port’s fashion features editor, David Hellqvist, reflects on an unusual journey to the remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard to shoot Scotch & Soda’s A/W 17 collection

There are at least 12 places in the world called Amsterdam – but ask around and most people will only know one: the Dutch capital. Other Amsterdams include a town in eastern South Africa, a remote village in Ohio, USA, and a French island smack in the middle of the Indian Ocean. But the most outlandish one, the trickiest to reach and, ultimately, to survive on, is Amsterdamøya, a small island close to the North Pole.

Part of the Svalbard archipelago, Amsterdamøya is today Norwegian territory, but the island was discovered by Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz in 1596. Svalbard covers a relatively small area: it’s roughly the same size as Ireland, but its hostile weather condition and remote location a mere 650 miles from the absolute top of the world, means only 2,500 people reside here.

I’m writing this from the canteen on M/S Gamle Mårøy, a 199-ton boat anchored just off the Amsterdamøya coastline. No one lives on the island, except for polar bears and walruses. We’re here because Dutch brand Scotch & Soda have dispatched a film crew to the northern hemisphere’s rooftop to shoot its Autumn Winter 2017 campaign. I’m tagging along to observe and document the expedition. It’s a long journey, in more ways than one. Not only have people travelled far to come here but it’s a diverse group of individuals to start with: I count French, Turkish, Swedish, Lithuanian, Romanian, Brazilian, Portuguese, Norwegian and, of course, Dutch nationalities among the directors, photographers, technicians, stylists, assistants, guides and models.

Built in 1959 to ferry people around the local villages of northern Norway, Gamle Mårøy dutifully carries us between fierce icebergs and desolate beaches decorated with stranded logs that have floated all the way from Siberia. We eat and sleep on the boat; altogether there’s 26 of us onboard, plus the six-man crew. The sailors, all serious and experienced seamen, have had to get used to living with make-up, hair straighteners and drones scattered all over the boat. It is, to say the least, a trip defined by organised chaos.

But in a way, the whole set-up is ‘on brand’ for Scotch & Soda. The Amsterdam-based label (the Dutch Amsterdam, that is) favours an eclectic mishmash attitude to fashion: different eras, places and cultures are merged into collections that speak of a sartorial freedom, as well as a ‘free mind’. If that sounds a bit ‘happy hippy’ it’s because Scotch & Soda is a spontaneous brand, not afraid to see where the wind them. It’s a brand of the world, and for the world. And in this case, it’s taken us to Amsterdamøya because Scotch & Soda firmly believes that Amsterdam can be everywhere; it’s about more than just canals, bikes and clogs. Travelling is about the journey not the destination, as the old saying goes.

Though when you’re at Latitude 79˚ 45.403’ N and Longitude 11˚ 00.819’ E, a metaphorical stone’s throw from the actual North Pole, the destination does have some impact – especially for the four armed guards that are here to protect us from attacking polar bears. We never see a bear but we get close to a group of walruses resting on the beach, and on our way out we spot whales in the distance. Here you see animals you only read about in books.

The models are not necessarily dressed for this sub-zero climate (there’s no Gore-Tex or fleece, instead the Scotch & Soda garments are layered up to keep them warm and dry) but it doesn’t matter: “You’re living on this island, but only in your dreams,” the photographer says to one model when explaining the character he’s playing. Loosely, the models take on the roles of explorers and adventurers, all characters in Scotch & Soda’s AW17 universe. It’s not for real – but the place, the climate and the island of Amsterdamøya are very much real. Here, there’s tension between fiction and reality; the role-play is acted out but there are potential real life consequences. The Arctic can be merciless; it doesn’t take prisoners.

Scotch & Soda could have filmed this elsewhere and just called it Amsterdamøya. Iceland, for example, is a lot closer to home and it looks similar in certain places. They could even have used a green screen in a studio to add the effect of Svalbard’s brutally monochrome landscape. We’ve made the journey because there are certain things you can’t fake; one morning, while filming on Gamle Mårøy’s upper deck, it starts snowing. Heavy flakes bounce off the rolling waves and soon cover the boat. Sure, it’s July but this is the Arctic – normal rules do not apply here. But even in the toughest of circumstances the film crew pushes on: Paolo Martins, Scotch & Soda’s art director, calls it “a sensible nonsense”. It’s a state of mind, the ability to make something out of nothing. 

To reach Amsterdamøya you first fly into Longyearbyen, the biggest town on Svalbard. It’s the world’s northernmost airport for commercial airlines. From Oslo, it’s a three-hour flight, but it’s worth it just to fly in over the mountaintops, fjords and glacier. The town sits on the east coast of Isfjorden, and when I land, at 1am, it’s as light as lunchtime. It takes some time getting used to, but we’re all happy we’re here in the summertime, rather then in deepest winter when you never see daylight and you need a headlamp to go to the supermarket. Longyearbyen is beautiful place, in an eerie way. A lot of the area is classed as a cultural landmark and there’s lots of abandoned equipment scattered around from when the island was a vital centre for coal mining.

But Svalbard’s mining days are long gone. Today, tourism is a big part of the financial eco-system up here and Ny-Ålesund, another Svalbard village, houses a research lab for 150 international scientists, which keeps the economy going. It’s here on Svalbard that the Global Seed Vault store a million seeds from all over the world in case a global emergency wipes out the existing ones. Its closeness to the Pole is also of interest to the Russians, who all live in a separate settlement on the island called Barentsburg.

The remoteness here is intense, and once we‘re on Amsterdamøya the silence is deafening. The only thing that brings back reality, except for the hushed chitchat among the crew, is the roaring diesel engine onboard Gamle Mårøy as she slices through the waves on the 17-hour trip back to Longyearbyen.

At the breakfast table on Gamle Mårøy there are ongoing production meetings and creative meetings; the film crew plot their storyboard while the print photographer works out who can have what model and when. At the back, the kitchen crew is still laying out breakfast while simultaneously preparing snacks for the film crew stepping ashore, and planning tonight’s dinner. The food cooked by the chef is local, fresh and tasty; we eat red snapper fish, deer and elk – we even try seal meat. It’s like a small-scale society on the boat, governed by Captain Odd Oliver Torkildsen. Everyone has a specific job that’s carried out with precision – there’s no room for mistakes.

Inside the canteen it’s warm and cosy, but on Amsterdamøya there’s mostly wet moss and endless mountain peaks covered in snow and ice. Looking around, you sometime see another boat on the horizon, perhaps a fishing trawler, but there are no other fashion brands out here, that’s for sure. As the film crew covers yet another scene, the rest of us wander off to admire a group of beached walruses. In the water they are surprisingly agile but on land they can only crawl a few metres before having to lie down for a long break.

The Scotch & Soda brand, although over 30 years old, is like a curious and creative kid. Their want for adventure and discovery is a beautiful and child-like quality, which makes for playful clothes with a relaxed aesthetic. You can tell endless trips and adventures inspire and shape the collection. And when you’re shooting your campaign in the majestic shadow of a glacier you can’t help feel proud of Amsterdam, whatever Amsterdam you happen to find yourself in.

Photography Elizabeth Toll

Elements: The Beret

Port’s fashion features editor, David Hellqvist, reflects on the long, colourful and not completely French history of the beret

‘Homme au béret basque’ by Picasso Pablo. Courtesy of RMN (musée Picasso de Paris) Photo (C) RMN-Grand Palais (musée Picasso de Paris)

Picture a beret wearer in your head and they’ll most likely be French. Perhaps they’ll be in a striped Breton top, if you believe in stereotypes. But if you were to trace the hat’s history, you’ll find that it’s got as much to do with Spanish fashion as with French mode.

The two often overlap, as was the case with French-Basque tennis player Jean Borotra, who famously wore a blue beret while playing at the Wimbledon championship throughout the 1920s. It was Borotra that helped popularise the beret internationally, bringing it to an audience outside of France and Spain, where it has been commonly worn since the 13th century.

But the beret has always had an artistic air too, which only makes its affiliation with elite special forces around the world even stranger. This mixture of the intellectual and the macho means it is an alluring piece of clothing to work with today, as proven by Isaac Larose and Marc Beaugé’s Larose Paris brand. Having mastered everything from the trilby to basketball caps, Larose Paris now also offers berets, with or without its signature zip pocket.

There is no one else, arguably, that personifies the beret and its creative ambitions quite like Pablo Picasso. Born in Malaga in south-east Spain, he spent most of his adult life living in France, where he died in 1973 from a heart attack.

Some viewed him as a sartorial role model as well as an artistic master, as suggested in the 2014 book Institute of Contemporary Arts: 1946-1968. According to its co-author Anne Massey, researching the book unveiled the true power of Picasso’s beret.

“Among the monthly internal bulletins we found one concerning lost property,” Massey says. “It revealed that berets were left behind around the time of the Picasso show – he wore one and everyone was trying to copy him.” Well, we know what they say about imitation…

Take a look at a brief history of the French chore jacket 

Our Legacy’s Orange County Wardrobe

Our Legacy co-founder Jockum Hallin on the brand’s first ever collaboration and how it was inspired by his teenage years singing in hardcore punk bands 

Vault by Vans x Our Legacy Collection
Vault by Vans x Our Legacy Collection

Few brands have resisted the idea of collaborations for as long as Swedish label Our Legacy. Steadily, over the last 10 or so years, the Stockholm-based brand has been built, brick by brick. Today, it’s a sober and subtle mainstay in fashion, perfectly bridging directional concepts with wearable clothes. 

We can only guess the number of times big brands have come knocking to get some of that Our Legacy treatment, and it appears that Vans – the major American footwear brand known for its skate and surf legacy – won the fight. Here, Our Legacy co-founder Jockum Hallin explains the reasoning behind the label’s first brand partnership and, if he had a choice, who his sartorial dream collaboration would be with.

Why Vans and why now?

I grew up wearing Vans, so there’s a personal tie going way back. However, we never do collaborations, so when Vans asked us to do a couple of shoes and a bag for them we said ‘thanks, but no thanks’.  I slept badly for a couple of nights, thinking about what one could have done. So we came back to the table, pitching to do the best streetwear possible for them (Vans Vault usually don’t do any clothing), it needed to be made in the USA, the way it used to be done.

For the footwear, we used materials like Swedish natural tanned leather, hairy suede and army nylon, but in the exact same shapes – and I mean down to every single detail – as my favourite Vans in the early 90s. We wanted it to feel more like a sub-brand or standalone collection than a couple of collab products.

What was the inspiration? 

I grew up in Sweden in the ’90s, skateboarding, playing and touring with hardcore bands, dreaming of what was going on in New York and Los Angeles. The clothes and shoes I saw in US skateboard magazines were not possible to get in my little hometown, and I could hardly ever get my hands on the records talked about in the fanzines I read. The collection is that unreachable dream come true.

Vault by Vans x Our Legacy Collection
Vault by Vans x Our Legacy Collection

Where did the colour palette come from?

All my favourite West Coast hardcore bands like Uniform Choice, Inside Out, Chain of Strength and the early Ignite, hails out of Orange County, California, plus Vans was originally founded there, hence the Orange County colour tribute. Looking at footage from the end ’80s early ’90s hardcore-era, you see white hoodies and long sleeves, bleached crew cuts and Vans… That Positive Mental Attitude look really sums up the collection.

What’s your favourite Vans trainers style? 

I’ve worn Authentics and Slip Ons back and forth, ever since my teens. The SK8 Mid is the style I’m most happy that we got to revamp and bring back.

Now that you’ve opened the door to collaboration, what would be your dream partnership?

I’d like to travel back and do an end-of the-90s Helmut Lang collaboration or one with Maison Margiela around the same time, how about that?

What do you say to the Louis V x Sup collection?

It says something about the times we are in, but Nobel Prize winner or not? Well, something is happening here and Mr Jones seems to know what it is…

Citizens of Vancouver: Herschel Supply

Herschel Supply founders Jamie and Lyndon Cormack talk about the origins of the contemporary accessories brand, where the name comes from, and their connection to one of Canada’s most diverse cities

We are all shaped by the places we grew up in and where we live today. The geographical circumstances of our lives, be it personal or professional, has as profound effect on us as the actual place, and the people living there help form us into who we are. Accessories brand Herschel Supply. is a good example as its products are partly defined by the unpredictable weather on Canada’s west coast, but also the constant globetrotting by its co-founders, brothers Jamie and Lyndon Cormack. Bags are, after all, all about the journey, however long or short.

Vancouver is a city with two sides: sky-high mountains on one and the never-ending ocean on the other. What better starting point could any lifestyle brand ask for? On a recent trip to the brand’s Vancouver HQ, we quizzed the Cormack brothers on their life in the Canadian city, why it ticks all their boxes and the company’s backstory.

Where does the name Herschel Supply come from?

Jamie: The name comes from a little town, Herschel, where our great-grandparents, our grandparents and our father grew up. Our mum was actually from a town about a 15-minute drive away as well.

Lyndon: When we started Herschel Supply – being brothers and having to choose a name – we kept honing in on Herschel because it was where we had some history, family connections, and it was also one of favourite places in the world to visit. It’s not on the map as a worldwide tourist destination, in fact there are only 30 people living there today…

Jamie: It was perfect for a couple of young kids who wanted to fire guns and ride motorbikes; there aren’t any traffic lights or anything, so it’s a bit like the Wild West out there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a police officer in Herschel. As a name, it doesn’t mean anything to anybody. It’s more about an emotion and a memory of a place that was special to us. It has nothing to do with Vancouver, it’s more about nostalgia.

So you guys never lived there. You grew up in Vancouver?

Lyndon: Well, we grew up in Western Canada, but we’ve lived in Vancouver longer than we’ve lived anywhere else in the world.

Jamie: I certainly won’t be leaving Vancouver anytime soon either, as it’s definitely one of my favourite places.

Lyndon: Yes, it’s an amazing city, ticks all the boxes really.

Why’s that?

Jamie: It’s a very worldly city. A lot of people travel and move here; it’s a lovely melting pot society with good food, a diverse culture and a great inclusive nature.

Lyndon: To be able to live in the city on the water and be this close to the mountains… that is the perfect mixture for both of us.

Is Canada a little like the US in terms of the East and West coast being the cultural epicentres?

Lyndon: Absolutely yes. It’s very similar whether you compare Los Angeles to New York, or East versus West. It is definitely more city life on the East coast and it’s more ‘city meets nature’ in the West coast. We have more in common with Portland and Seattle then L.A. Much like San Francisco, Vancouver is very outdoor/indoor living, and with somewhere like Toronto – the biggest city in Canada – it’s more of a concrete jungle.

Would identify more with West coast America than East coast Canada?

Jamie: I would say so, yes. As individuals, certainly, but as a brand it doesn’t matter. Herschel Supply is as comfortable in New York or Toronto as in the middle of a forest.

_HS45435
Flight over Vancouver. Photography courtesy of Herschel Supply

Can you highlight a few things that you think attracts people to your city?

Jamie: I think that the locals in Vancouver embrace what surrounds us really well and the city naturally gravitates to its best highlights – it’s something both tourists and locals alike celebrate, whether it’s the huge viewpoints or amazing hikes, or the fact that we’re surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. Plus, we’re a city on the base of a mountain.

Lyndon: When the city gets dark in the winter there’s three ski hills that are open for night skiing across the area within 15 minute drives away.

There’s a very diverse community in Vancouver. What nationalities the congregate here?

Lyndon: There’s lots of Hong-Kongers, Chinese, Japanese and Korean people living here. We also have a large South African population – I think it’s like 130,000 people now and it’s quite a large community within British Columbia.

That must have a great effect on the local food scene?

Jamie: You definitely have to eat sushi here… We’re on the Pacific Ocean and with salmon being such a staple dish for us, that’s a given. But it’s also great to sample the way Japanese sushi chefs and their take on salmon. Another of my favourites is a Belgian restaurant called Chambar, where we tend to eat there quite a bit. I think the restaurant we go to most often is a little one by our houses in Deep Cove called The Arms Reach Bistro, which is situated right around the corner of the the main street that overlooks the yacht club and the Pacific Ocean.

Where are you based in Vancouver?

Jamie: Our offices are in a really nice design district called Railtown and right beside that is Gastown, where you find a number of different incredible clothing shops. It’s around the corner from Livestock, which is an amazing sneaker destination.

Could you have created the brand anywhere else, or does Vancouver help define what you do?

Lyndon: We really consider ourselves citizens of the world rather than citizens of Vancouver. I love living in Vancouver and calling it my home, and even though I like to get out there and see other countries and cities, I always love coming home. For me, that is really my test to see if you’re in the right place or not!

herschelsupply.borderfree.com

Photography Stephen Wilde

Aitor Throup: Raw Denim Research

G-Star’s executive creative director, Aitor Throup, reveals the philosophy behind his AW17 collection and his experimental fashion lab in Amsterdam

It might sound like an odd fit, a concept-driven artist from Burnley, England, working for one of the more mainstream denim brands around today. But that might just be why Aitor Throup’s appointment as G-Star’s executive creative director makes sense. They both need each other and couldn’t have accomplished the AW17 collection displayed last week at Palais de Tokyo without the partnership; Throup may have wanted the commercial ability to speak to the masses, while G-Star might have hoped to reach a new audience at Paris Fashion Week.

It’s a fine line and it could easily have gone horribly wrong, but as we saw when Throup teased the partnership with a small capsule collection in June last year, it has enough of his design DNA to keep it ‘on brand’ while also sticking to G-Star’s raw denim legacy. In his new role, Throup has moved to Amsterdam to fully focus on the Raw Research laboratory, which is dedicated to his experimental approach to denim. After his Paris AW17 menswear show, we sat down to discuss his new role, doing things ‘his way’, and how he’s injecting ‘controlled risk’ into the design process.

G-Star Raw Research II presentation. Shown at Palais de Tokyo during Paris Fashion Week AW17
G-Star Raw Research II presentation. Shown at Palais de Tokyo during Paris Fashion Week AW17

You are now officially based in G-Star’s Amsterdam offices, what are they like?

Yeah, the office is beautifully designed and based on an airplane hangar where they design and build the airplanes from scratch. It’s all glassed. And also the floor’s offset, so that if you’re on one floor you can see through to the next one, and the next one…

Apart from the Raw Research laboratory you set up a while back, are you also working on G-Star’s mainline?

Absolutely, yeah. We have a huge commercial responsibility as a team. And I think that’s why it’s important to remind ourselves to take risks, to keep pushing out designs that aren’t dictated by the market. Completely new things that didn’t exist before, that we don’t know whether the consumer needs or wants until we make them.

It doesn’t sound like something brands like G-Star usually agree to. How did you persuade them?

They’ve always liked to push boundaries, It works if you have a controlled risk.

How do you control the risk? 

Through scale. That’s why we set up the lab so that a predetermined percentage of the collection is not commercially dictated. The brand was convinced that they would benefit overall by having a small percentage of the collection be completely autonomous. It’s a great opportunity to gauge future commercial successes.

Aitor Throup
Aitor Throup

When did G-Star emerge on the denim scene?

G-Star became big because of challenging the conventions of denim. They launched the Elwood style in 1996, which, at the time, was a revolutionary idea for denim. They clashed 2D workwear construction details with a 3D biker-inspired knee-panel. Two completely different references in one pair of jeans!

How did the Elwood jean fare in the beginning?

You know, it was a weird jean and I think it was challenging for people to get their head around them at the beginning. But G-Star persisted, and after about a year or so, it became a huge thing in the denim world, and lots of brands started referencing it and copying it, which shifted the idea what was possible and acceptable for jeans to look like. I’m inspired by that, and I’m trying to capture that defining aspect of them as a brand.

We want to continue to challenge notion of what jeans look like, which in turn allows us to challenge what every other type of G-Star product look like. Otherwise you’re just making stuff. It’s healthy because it’s risk-taking; we want to understand the commercial value of risk-taking. Our first research project was never supposed to turn into a capsule collection, we just set up a lab to progress the brand.

You mean the pieces you showed in June 2016?

Yes, we didn’t design it as ‘season one’… We only decided that we needed a focused, mini-team with relative autonomy that I could direct, to explore more…to take risks. 

When did it go from just general research to an actual collection?

We created these prototypes to present back to the G-Star board, and for them to pick which ones would go into the general collection. But, as soon as we showed them, everyone had the same reaction: ‘Wow, this is amazing, let’s put it out as a capsule’. But it’s going into the main line as well.

We’ve been able to test the success of it as a capsule collection. It went to the right stores, like Dover Street Market. It sold really well and it’s been well-received and understood by people, by journalist and by buyers. But we’re also able to assess the success of the general collection version of season one. Jeans from season one went in and sold amazingly well, globally, even though it was the most expensive jean in the whole collection.

G-Star Raw Research II presentation. Shown at Palais de Tokyo during Paris Fashion Week AW17
G-Star Raw Research II presentation. Shown at Palais de Tokyo during Paris Fashion Week AW17

That’s the true meaning of a laboratory, right?

Exactly. On one side, we’re expressing the needs of the body in different environments and in different functions, so we have these Motac-X jeans that have engineered rib panels that allow very rigid denim to articulate the movements of the body. It’s a completely new solution to the problem of rigid raw denim.

Rather than just making a stretch version of the denim we engineered articulations into the product. It’s a study of body motion, but with direct reference from the motor cross world. I think it’s a connection between the worlds of art and design. I’m personally really interested in symbolism and you can use symbolism to say something through your artwork. 

How does the motor cross culture fit in?

For us, motor cross really represents adolescence. It represents that beautiful moment, that period in your life when you’re transitioning from childhood to adulthood. It’s the feeling of freedom, but yet a sense of responsibility. And it turned into a mantra for the brand: as an adult and developed brand, we need to go back to our childhood adolescence.

It’s like a band that wants to go back to when they made their first album… That’s the ultimate challenge isn’t it, to get that magic back. And this is what justifies the lab… that freedom of expression.

What about your background as an exclusive and avant-garde designer – do you feel you need G-Star as much as they need you?

That’s exactly how it is because, at the end of the day my stuff is incredibly exclusive, as you say, as a symptom of me choosing to do things the my way. 

I think we have a responsibility to continue to work in that place where we can just spend two weeks making one jacket. I believe in investing in newness, so that those things can inform some things in the future that can change and shift how clothes are made or worn. 

Baartmans & Siegel: Making Marks

Design duo Amber Siegel and Wouter Baartmans discuss their Marks & Spencer collaboration, childhood memories of shop floor biscuits and school uniforms, and the futuristic architecture that inspired the capsule collection

Plain stretch shirt, colour block crew neck jumper, boucle coat, formal flat front trouser, leather trainers
Plain stretch shirt, colour block crew neck jumper, boucle coat, formal flat front trouser, leather trainers

Talk of collaborations is rife in fashion today; most brands aim to reach new consumers by partnering up with labels that are different enough to bring something new to the equation. It’s easy to spot the ones that are too much of a marketing exercise, only dreamt up to work as blog fodder. The trick, it seems, is to find a partner that produces something you can’t do yourself, be it in terms of quality or quantity, an expert craftsmanship technique or a signature garment/product. British high street giants Marks & Spencer’s collaboration with niche LCM-showing Baartmans & Siegel is a good example of that.

Based around key Baartmans & Siegel pieces, such as casual tailoring, bomber jackets and car coats, it’s an excellent opportunity for the national retail institution to expand on the widespread notion that it ‘just’ does wardrobe staples and underwear. The partnership proves that M&S can explore a more directional aesthetic, without losing focus on who its core customer is. This is, essentially, a collaborative collection that none of the involved partners could have done by themselves – just the way it should be.

Ahead of the collection’s launch, Port sat down with Amber Siegel and Wouter Baartmans to find out what they have learnt from collaborating with M&S and how they’ve developed a new fabric from scratch for the collection.

Zip rib jacket, Price of Wales check mac
Zip rib jacket, Price of Wales check mac

Did you find that there’s an overlap in your design process when working with M&S? 

Amber: Fundamentally there’s a lot of crossover in terms of wanting to not only sell products, but products that have longevity. I think that when you buy something from Marks & Spencer, that’s really engrained into the brand DNA.

Wouter: Yeah, that’s what M&S have always been about, going back to the days when you’d buy a nice jumper and it would last ages and not fall apart after a couple of washes.

What are your own personal memories of M&S?

WB: In the mid-90s, there was a Marks & Spencer food store in Amsterdam and I remember my mum buying these amazing English cookies from there… it was a very special treat.

AS: For me, it was my first school uniform, underwear and all those childhood lifetime staples that you start off with! The other thing I remember was when it called St Michael; the M&S on our high street had a very specific type of lighting and flooring, so for me it has a very nostalgic feeling.

Zip rib jacket, formal jacket, formal flat front trousers, leather trainers
Zip rib jacket, formal jacket, formal flat front trousers, leather trainers

Your collection notes talk about being inspired by futuristic architecture. Where did that come from?

AS: When you sit in the lobby of the M&S headquarters and look upwards, it’s an amazing sight. Richard Rogers designed the building and it looks a little bit like a British conservative version of Centre Pompidou in Paris. If you sit in the middle and you look up, you can see the lifts whizzing up and down and everything is exposed. We were really absorbed in this kind of 2001: A Space Odyssey-esque cinematic, architecture with a lot of compressed materials. That’s essentially how we started approaching the project.

Tell me about the fabric. Was it specifically developed for this collection?

WB: Yes, we started looking at jacquards and then we came up with this idea of having the small houndstooth mixed with a bigger houndstooth, and having a kind of explosion of little patterns. That check was then built up with different fragments to give it texture. That’s definitely something we aren’t able to do ourselves, within our own collections. 

AS: It was partly because it had a really long timeline, whereas usually we have a three to four months to turn everything around in terms of development, finishes and techniques. We wanted it to have this raised feeling, but also a lunar crater aspect in a very subtle way.

 Zip rib jacket, Prince of Wales check bomber jacket, drawstring trousers

Zip rib jacket, Prince of Wales check bomber jacket, drawstring trousers

The collection feels very product-focused even though the colour scheme (basically black, navy and grey) means it all matches…

WB: That’s how we’ve designed our own collections for the last three seasons or so. We always think about the layering and we always design garment-by-garment and not so much outfit-by-outfit. After that, we then create the looks with our stylists, and that’s why a lot of layering happens last minute. We never design an outfit: it is always piece-by-piece.

AS: But we’re not minimalist designers. I think we are mostly about maximalism in the sense that there is something nice about having options and variety. I’m not a minimal person anyway, I need to be able to know I have a Plan A, B and C – that way I can shed or add. I can’t live in a purist T-shirt and jeans like that, and I think a lot of people want the sense of security that comes with options.

Baartmans & Siegel’s capsule collection for M&S is available in stores and online now

L’Eroica: The Tuscan Trials

Fuelled by wine and ribollita bean soup, Port heads to Tuscany and cycles 75km through the Chianti hills on a vintage bike

Just over 2,000 people live in the Tuscan town of Gaiole in Chianti, two hours southeast of Pisa. But for one weekend in early October every year, more than 7,000 people descend on the valley. Though they undoubtedly enjoy the coffee, pasta, wine and other local specialties, there is another reason they’ve travelled here.

The L’Eroica race, a cycle event where only bikes produced before 1987 are allowed, pulls a big crowd. It attracts those who subscribe to an analogue lifestyle which, over that one weekend, is defined by vintage bikes and woollen sportswear. There’s no lycra tops or modern carbon bikes to be seen; L’Eroica is all about going back in time, and that means hard work.

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Celebrating two decades next year, L’Eroica was set up in 1997 by Giancarlo Brocci, a local Gaiole in Chianti villager who invited 92 cyclists to take to the area’s famous gravel roads. The race quickly turned into a movement, with participants from all over the world coming to Italy to test their strength and durability. And while each cyclist takes part for a different reason, the L’Eroica motto unites them: they all race for ‘the beauty of fatigue, and the thrill of the conquest’. Depending on your stamina and energy levels, there’s a variety of available routes: everything from 46km to 200km. If you choose the longest race, you leave Gaiole in Chianti at 7am and return roughly 12 hours later.

Along the way you face the hardship of steep hills, both up and down. Because the bikes are nearly years old and above, there are few reliable brakes and gears to hand. And therein lies the challenge: it’s not only your own fears you have to overcome, but also the limiting technology of the time. But, for some L’Eroica cyclists, that’s exactly the point.

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I took part three years ago and only managed 46km, the shortest distance, but this time around I increased it to 75km… though in L’Eroica lingo that’s just the ‘short route’. At a minimum of 220m and maximum 762m altitude – and a 1,522m drop – it’s not an easy ride, especially if you’re an inexperienced cyclist like me.

As this is not a race per se, none of that matters. Instead, it’s a personal journey of tired thrills, to summarise the motto. Praying I wouldn’t suffer a puncture, I cycled alone and enjoyed the solitude of the ride, music in my ears and the Tuscan hills rolling around me. There’s a beautiful vineyard around most corners here, and when the sun hits the right spots it’s, surely, one of the most beautiful places on earth.

At the same time, though, it can be a very social experience. People end up chatting on the road, helping each other out with flat tyres and other mechanical problems. The rest stops are more than just opportunities to catch your breath, they offer the men and women of Gaiole in Chianti the chance to flaunt their local wares: try the bread dipped in red wine and sugar, or go for the traditional Nutella toast. Once the cyclists opting for the 46km range have turned off home, the next stop serves up big slabs of salami and red wine. And lastly, while laying in a sun-drenched meadow, you tuck into the Tuscan bean soup, ribollita, and more wine.

For me, it’s the combination of all the above that makes L’Eroica a truly unique experience. We had sunshine and beautiful skies, which made for great views and helped when climbing up hills or holding on for dear life when speeding downhill. Racing down the last section into Gaiole in Chianti, six hours after I set out, was an exhilarating experience. No one else cared, I was just one of 7,000 riders, but I had challenged myself, and won.

Special thanks to Brooks, one of the sponsors behind L’Eroica 2016

Photography Paolo Martelli

The Good Italian: Caruso

Umberto Angeloni, president and CEO of Caruso, talks to PORT about the evolution of tailoring, finding inspiration in Hemingway, and making some of the best suits Italy has to offer

In Caruso’s SS15 collection, there was a red jumper with seven white words woven into the fine cashmere: ‘In menswear do as the Italians do’. It’s not only an eye-catching casual piece in an otherwise mostly formal and dressed-up collection, but it’s also an impressive statement of intent from Umberto Angeloni and his recently reinvigorated Italian heritage brand. Now CEO of Caruso, Angeloni spent 15 years heading up Brioni before leaving in 2007 to look for a smaller project of his own. “I took an 18-month sabbatical and toured Italy to look at the manufacturing of clothes in this country,” he explains over breakfast at the Four Seasons Hotel, next door to his Caruso flagship store on Via Gesu in Milan. In the north of Italy, between Milan and Bologna, he founded the Caruso factory in Soragna, Parma, a region known for its eponymous, world-renowned cheese and ham. Caruso, at the time when Angeloni arrived, was a mid-sized tailoring company that only produced suits for other brands. “It was set up in 1958 by a tailor from Naples called Raffaele Caruso. He moved up to the Parma province with his family as the north of Italy was more industrialised at the time.” Only manufacturing for other brands, Raffaele quickly learnt how to make the best possible product with minimised costs. “I found Caruso and I thought it was an extremely fit company, able to be ready for the new post-recession environment by combining technology with fine, fine tailoring. The Caruso suit has the best buttonholes I’ve ever seen. I thought my previous brand did the best ones until I saw these,” Angeloni says in his confident, silky smooth voice.

“The Stage of Italian Menswear” by Giuseppe Amato in the Milan store

Since Angeloni took over in January 2009 the brand has been completely turned around. Still making some of the best suits in Italy, Caruso is now doing it under its own flag. Having worked as an investment banker before getting involved with the Brioni family business, Angeloni knows a thing or two about making a brand profitable. In terms of the creative output, he hired Sergio Colantuoni‏ as creative director. The result is a modern Italian tailoring brand anchored in history and traditions, but always looking ahead when it comes to research and development (R&D). “It’s very important for Caruso to always strive forward. We have 30 full-time staff working on R&D. Only six of them are focused on fabrics and materials though – the rest are experimenting on techniques and silhouettes, combinations etc. We make 4,000 prototypes a year, maybe four or five go into production.” It’s rare for such a brand to spend quite so much time and money on the future. Four seasons in, that investment is paying off. Except for presentations during Milan’s menswear week, and the launch of the aforementioned Via Gesu store back in January, the brand is establishing themselves at the forefront of Italian fashion. Angeloni’s approach to success is as much based on sartorial knowledge as his strategic business experience; he knows that in order to stand out and make a mark, Caruso needs a clear USP. In the case of Caruso, that distinct angle is obvious to Umberto Angeloni.

“I’m proud to say that we are very good at suits, that’s our core product and we’ll be sticking to that. It may sound like a humble statement but it isn’t really, because the suit is the most difficult item in a man’s wardrobe to get right.” But the lounge suit, the traditional business uniform of today – a two button, single-breasted jacket with notched lapels – is over 200 years old. Angeloni’s job is to modernise it. “It’s all about the evolutionary path of the lounge suit, that’s why we produce 4,000 prototypes! The evolution used to be steep and now it’s flatter, admittedly. There are still new things to discover and improve though, whether it’s the shape, posture, proportions, details, fabrics, components or colours – it’s a combination of fragments from each of them that propels the suit forward.” But in 2015, many people – at least the younger generations – question the validity of the suit. Is it really a modern garment? Unsurprisingly, Angeloni is quick to cement its importance: “It’s modern because it’s an object of evolution. By definition evolution is the most modern thing there is. It’s not a revolution, where things change overnight,” he explains. “Evolution has a way of getting rid of the wrongs and the useless. The male body has evolved over the years through a change of lifestyles, mentality, sentiments – and the suit reflects all of that. We are on the top of that curve, and there is nothing more modern than that.” He affirms, “That’s why the suit will never die, and will accompany men forever.”

15 minutes to make a button hole

There is no doubt Angeloni is a man of style himself. Breakfast at the Four Seasons is a civilised affair. He’s impeccably dressed, even though the hour is early and last night was prolonged due to the festivities in his new store. Late last year they opened a New York store, and in 2016 there’s a planned Shanghai shop in a Norman Foster-designed shopping complex. In between, Angeloni is considering a retail space in Germany. Wherever Caruso goes, Angeloni seems determined to look for spots off the beaten track; instead of the classic Via Monte Napoleone, Milan’s answer to Bond Street, the CEO went for their current, more hidden, location. He plans to make the street into a menswear shopping destination, even attracting the mayor of Milan to the store opening. “Our target is very clear and concise, we know the customer. We don’t do first, second and third lines, only one line: Caruso,” Angeloni explains. Defining the brand DNA is very important. “There’s research saying that consumers often are confused by what brands do and what they are actually good at. They want certainty.” And so far Angeloni and Caruso have managed to communicate that sartorial message through their blend of traditional wardrobe staples, manufactured in Italy with a modern take on the local heritage.

Jackets waiting for the next process

No one knows better than a seasoned businessman that in order to succeed, a brand needs to know its customer. Angeloni is quick to explain whom they have in mind. It’s evident that he has thought long and hard about this. Maybe the perfect customer was formed in his head before he even acquired Caruso? Maybe the perfect Caruso consumer is Umberto Angeloni himself? “Our customer is ‘the good Italian’. It’s an expression I read once in an Ernest Hemingway book that was published after his death, called The Dangerous Summer. It talks about a summer he spent in Spain and he says in it, ‘if you want to travel in style, travel with good Italians.’” Angeloni goes on, elaborating on the heart of the brand’s ethos: “That expression, to me, means the most sophisticated consumer of menswear: careful, fastidious, knowledgeable and curious. As an Italian brand we should – and do – cater to this consumer first and foremost. We are able to satisfy him and be relevant to any customer with a similar intention and ambition.”

So, if ever in doubt about menswear, just do as the Italians do. Photography Claudia Zalla and Gianni Pezzani

This article is taken from issue 16 of PORT. Click here for more information about subscriptions

Spotlight: Kolor AW16

kolor leopard 2

Japanese designer Junichi Abe explains his fascination with leopard patterns

“For this season I tried to combine Kolor’s graphic imagery with the idea of living in sync with nature. Motifs such as our leopard pattern express an aggressive and sensual feeling at the same time. I tried to bring a distorted mood into the collection by fusing those elements with the concept of modernity and inanimateness.”